tv Yale Honors Supreme Court Justices CSPAN November 27, 2014 8:30pm-10:23pm EST
e that i woulddgh never do anything even if the country was facing a disaster. every timedropping the world is becoming more dangerous so you will have to fix the entitlements and do something. i think doing the right thing will be the best prescription. there are a lot of good people here who work hard and care deeply. but i think doing the right thing -- we need to save this country. economically. we need to get control of the debt and deficit and there are tough votes there. i was the supporter of the simpson bowles commission. the longer you put it off, the tougher it is going to be. these are difficult times for the congress that there are a lot of good people here who care deeply. -- but there are a lot of good
people who care deeply red we deeply.e -- we need more bipartisanship. i am a conservative and he is a moderate, let me put it that way. but we like each other. and we still like each other. i think you will need to find a little bit more. but these are difficult times. and i think the american people are unhappy and the media is not particularly helping -- not is so, but everything fast, so hot, so instant. sometimes you have to reflect and think and now it is just, to immediate -- too immediate. >> our time has gone by so quickly and there is so much of your career that we have not touched on, but my closing question will be, what will you miss the most? >> the people.
i have made some great friendships over the years on both sides of the aisle. a lot of people that i know one like and respect are here -- and like and respect are here and i will not be here because i am not coming back on the hill day after day after day. part of the reason i have been able to do a good job are the great staff. i was a staff person here. and so i think the people. >> thank you very much for your time. >> thank you. if you missed any of our interview with retiring wolf, "ann frank encore presentation tonight at -- you canastern catch an encore presentation tonight at 1:30 a.m. eastern.
careersh congressional at c-span.org. sports journalist and university officials talk about the future of university sport, including whether or not to pay after each, corruption, and funding for the popular sports. the big 12 conference posted before them and you can watch it tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. >> i think one of the places we are heading right now, jimmy, att is scary to me is that the lower tier schools in the big five, as they struggle to build to compete and catch up, i think we could see a purge of nonrevenue sports in order to focus more money on sports that matter financially. that is a trend we will see in the next five years and i just do not think that is good for anybody. >> i think that if we go down the road of paying football and
men's basketball players as the agents and their agents, the trial lawyers, would like us to do -- and i have plenty of friends were trial lawyers including my little brother -- who are trial lawyers including my bill brother -- we will be put in a situation where we will have to make that exact decision. that the nonrevenue sports will be eliminated because the schools have to go from 16 sports down to 12. i have sat in meetings where those kinds of conversations have happened. that is bad for the country and for the big sports. -- four olympic sports. tot is bad for people to go university and have a better opportunity in life. >> you can watch the entire event hosted by the big ten conference on -- because itference on friday or watch online by searching big 12 at c-span.org.
>> thank you for your comments about our programming. here are a few we received about "q&a." >> i just watched your program question and answer. i find it very offensive to put air who knows very little about sharia, very little about the koran in history. and history. she misquoted it koran and the line of mohammed. cans inaccurate and one basis on a very scholarly . and amit very offensive completely shocked as someone who watches and respects c-span to see this program, completely
shocked. i dare to say the worst program i have seen on c-span in 20 years. >> i wanted to comment on the "q&a" on c-span with the author darwish. she has given the most complete and concise, articulated explanation of the muslim religion in the modern world that i have not heard of. and i am a religious scholar of over 65 years. she should be commended just for the speech. thank you very much, c-span. >> continue to let us know what you think about the programs you are watching. , or send us al us tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook, follow us on twitter.
>> now, supreme court justices clarence thomas, samuel alito, and sonia sotomayor. the three-year-old graduates returned to their alma mater in late october to receive the alumni award of merit and discuss court traditions, technology, and other subjects. this was a part of yale law reunion weekend. it begins with robert post presenting the awards. this is about an hour and 50 minutes. [applause] >> good afternoon and welcome once again to alumni weekend. each year, the yield law school e law school association provides an award to an outstanding graduate.
it is our way of recognizing extraordinary alumni that have made contributions to the legal profession. we are a tiny school but we have exercised an outsized influence on the development of american law and public life. our award of merit has gone two presidents like gerald ford and bill clinton. likes gone to senators jack danford, arlen specter, joseph lieberman, and paul tsongas. officialse to cabinet like hillary clinton, edward leavy, robert rubin. scranton, mayors like john lindsay, an outstanding state judge -- and outstanding state judges. today we continue that tradition by honoring three alumni who, without any question, have contributed immensely to the substance of american law. today we honor three justices of
the united states supreme court. of each of these justices is a quintessentially american story, a story of work, ofbility, hard staggering achievement and great inborn talent. in different ways and in the name of different ideals, each of our honoree says arty left an indelible mark on the shape of our -- on a reason has already left an indelible mark on the shape of our jurisprudence. for as far back as anyone can remember, the school has been the site of passionate argument and disagreement. always nourished students in the pursuit of their own values and strive to help young men and women become as thoughtful and as effective as they can possibly be as they work out for themselves how best to comprehend this large and complex world.
ni graduate our alum with different worldviews and that is good. if we have done our job right, however, our graduates will share one thing. the valueappreciate of reason, dialogue, open and productive conversation. they will listen to those whom they disagree with. driven to these values is a commitmentsource -- to these i use is a precious resource in today's world. respect and mutual engagement, values that lie at the heart of the education that yale strives to provide, i fear for the future of our nation. the supreme court has always been at the heart of implacable controversy. i cannot begin to imagine the e-mail storm of pressure that
must involve every justice -- musttrom of pressure that engulfed every justice. institution -- in no institution are the values of moreale education salient than the supreme court. it is my pleasure to welcome back these three justices who have each displayed the fortitude and virtuosity necessary to succeed in the highly pressurized chamber of the court. to welcomel pleasure the backed way space that is safe for dialogue and discussion and oriented to bringing out the best that is in each of us in the hope that we will discover there, in ourselves, shared values and aspirations. of the justices we honor today graduated from yale in the 1970's.
justices iny of the the program before you, so in the interest of time, and of allowing you to hear directly from them, i will not repeat those biographies. in fact, i will be very brief. i will say only that in coming threee, each of these enriched the community in ways that foreshadowed how they would enrich the entire country in their role as justices of the supreme court. i will introduce the justices in order of seniority. the first to graduate from yale in 1974 was justice clarence thomas. justice thomas had been born into racial segregation and poverty. spent hisin which he earliest years had no running water and only a single electric light. when he was seven, he was ent to live with his grandfather who he would later describe as the greatest man he
had ever known. he stressed the importance of education so that young clarence could one day hold down a coat and tie job. robeshough he now wears instead of coats and ties, i am guessing his grandfather would still be proud. his resources as a student at yale were so limited that when his son jamal was born he could not afford a place for his child to sleep. so deem at jim thomas who is jim thomas,- dean who is here today, but justice thomas his own family crib -- lent justice thomas his own family crib. before classes began he secured a job with legal assistance. frank cochran remembers thomas as a quick learner, very well organized, and the kind of person you were able to trust to do the work while.
well.ught the -- work he brought the same philosophy to his studies. he obtained special permission to carry the maximum number of credits and he subjected himself to a rigorous curriculum of corporate law, bankruptcy, and commercial transactions. made a habit of staying at the library until it closed at 1:00 in the morning. it was clear from the beginning just how smart he was. 's diligence was equaled by his sociability which led to enduring relationships with students and faculty. he soon became close with the pioneering tax scholar boris and the civil rights professor thomas emerson and with clinton johnstone, a yale institution who passed away this year. around the end of his first spring, thomas lost his wallet
and had it returned to him by a fellow classmate named john bolton. they became fast friends. their discussion of politics may mades hesitate -- thomas hesitate before casting a ballot for mcgovern in 1972. his politics may have changed but his ability to relate to others has not. yield lawmany students who go on to clerk of lawsupreme court -- yale students are going to clerk of the supreme court and to a person they praise justice thomas. they describe his kindness and his infectious laugh. this elevates his deep personal humanity and his constant effort to reach out and to be helpful regardless of political beliefs. and that is no small thing for a
justice and robes. -- in robes. the can be no doubt as to his dedication. no justice is as fearless as justice clarence thomas. appointed to the court in 19 91 at the age of 43, he has been intellectualurt's conservative path breaker. passionately defended his convictions even when few agreed until gradually, and in no small part due to the force of his reasoning, his views have made their way into the legal mainstream. been compared to john marshall harland. someone else has suggested that he should be counted alongside holmes and marshall as a
visionary. court watching is always a tricky business and no one has made that clearer than our second nominee, samuel alito, who, in his prize-winning note, analyze the behind the scenes negotiations in the early clause cases like maccallum. in that note, he catalogued, and i am quoting him, "a long list of outwardly plausible but that they mistaken interpretations badly mistaken interpretations that resulted from attempts to discern." understood that outsiders cannot begin to guess at the negotiations and the endless compromises involved in constructing an opinion for the court. if you examine the career of justice thomas, you will find a dedicated to public service.
so also, the career of samuel alito from the united states attorney office to the office of legal counsel to the third circuit court of appeals to his current chambers. public service was in his g enes. his father, an italian immigrant to talk high school history -- who taught high school history. his mother was a school principal. both were the first and their families to attend college. at yale, he was the perfect law student. he did everything right. good friends with all. in short order, justice alito became the editor of the law journal. 78,r, an alumnus from members seeing him in class, where he would always sit in the front row, staring intently at the professor.
he never took a note and he never raised his hand but whenever there was a question that no one else could answer, the professor would inevitably call on samuel alito, would always nail it. it.ho would always nail appointed in 2006, he enjoys a reputation among his colleagues as someone with you most integrity, as a straight shooter who calls them as he sees them -- with the utmost integrity, as a straight shooter who calls them as he sees them. he is a formidable jurist who combines and methodological approach and a mastery of craft that has led legal linguist "ann garner to label him exemplar of legal style grates with power and with clarity -- who writes with power and with clarity." is assumingthat he a position of leadership, authoring major opinions express
conviction. merelyrisk of being another uninformed outsider, i would venture to guess that he is now conducting the very negotiations that he studied student and a yale i would further venture to guess that the force of his presence and his intellect is hard to resist. our third and final honoree is justice sonia sotomayor. in graduated from yale 1979. her life story is one of determination and grit. born in the east bronx from parents who immigrated from puerto rico during world war ii, justice sotomayor drop in a family that refuse to accept that economic disadvantage -- grew up in a family that refused to accept that economic disadvantage would determine what their children would become. her mother was famous in the projects for saving up to buy sonia and her brother a complete
edition of the insect with canada. britannica.dia the books paid off. after graduating, she headed straight to yale law school where she developed a reputation for having an analytical mind, a balanced perspective, and a fearless disposition. martha, her classmate and now the dean at another law school up the road -- [laughter] described her as tough, clear, and very quick on her feet. remarkable.am was [laughter] termers tend to be careful. they do not want to take chances. but sonia was a red person who from the very beginning took chances. as -- rare person who from the very beginning took chances.
law journal note, who for adviser believes is the best written on these subjects, concerned puerto ricans statehood. another person remembers how she was scrupulous by giving the strongest possible form two positions at which the disagreed. the journal found her not so important that it issued a press release to announce the publication. so important that it issued a press release to announce the publication. like justices thomas and alito, her path had a life of dedication two public service. she is the only current supreme
court justice who has experience in this informs her perspective. rachel, i promise dollar, has written that her experience has -- a prominent scholar, has written that her experience has given the court a perspective on criminal law that it has been how everyday people interact with it. what has been said about justice 's criminal jurisprudence can be said about her jurisprudence generally. her commitmentd to realizing the rule of not in its fullest sense, driven by her belief that society is best and i am quoting now, "a shared acceptance of the law's judgment."
the idea that the law must be legitimate to all americans is a noble and essential ideal. and anyone who has followed her work on the court knows that she has pursued it with eloquence and tenacity. , we have onw alums the stage today three remarkable graduates of the school. three graduates have answered the call to public service and achievement and who have already made an unmistakable mark on the substance of american law. each of you has been an inspiration that we teach, each in your own way. and for giving them faith in the value of law, and the profession of law, and the possibilities of law, we thank you and confer upon you the yale law school award of merit, which looks like this. you will each get this sent to you. it has a picture
of lady justice in it which comes from the windows of the sterling law building. i know that wherever lady justice is currently living, she is very proud of each one of you. congratulations. [applause] so that highlight of the afternoon, which is a conversation between justices thomas, a video, and so mayor, and allocate al --- alito, and sotomayor, and i don't take. --our own kate.
you back here. sam, you will be able to see judge garth later on. he has moved up. we hope your whole weekend goes wonderful and we are very excited. we have less than an hour and a half but sometime to get to know you better. my questions will proceed in three parts. first we want learn about your life off the bench. and then about your careers before you joined the supreme court. and finally some questions about your work on the court. , athere is a commonality common theme, it is the commonality between you in some respects. so, robert spoke of your backgrounds and we surely all took notes that none of you came from a family of lawyers. -- you eachs path chose this path with some independence and grit.
i will ask you about where you got that grit to study law. you., let me begin with you are quoted as saying "i was going to go to college and become an attorney and i knew that when i was 10." i want to ask you not so much what made you want to be an attorney but what did becoming a lawyer mean for you at that tender age of 10? oh. i thought you were going to ask , to say whatto me i was thinking at 10 was not terribly sophisticated. despitederstood that the repetitive theme of the ". mason" shows which introduced me mason" shows which
introduced me to the law, that each case was different. there were different people doing different kinds of work interested in different parts of the world and the society were in. -- they were in. and i had the law gave one that opportunity, to learn new things constantly. but in high school i worked in an office. back then it was one man and a bunch of women, ok? in the business office of a hospital. i used to relieve them during the summer when they went on vacation. and i knew from the repetitiveness of the work that i wanted something that would be constantly stimulating. i was not thinking, back then, in the global terms i subsequently developed. and so that has changed.
what law is to me now and what ine me choose it ultimately terms of a for sure the career i was going to do after college was that it was service. >> we will hear more about what it has become to you. sam, you'r princeton is there some aspect of your early life or early professional experience that is particularly important in achieving that? >> i did say it as a joke. of playing in the world series -- >> you would have referred that. >> you have been to baseball camp.
>> both ideas seemed equally plausible at that point. a couple of things got me interested in the law. my father did research for the new jersey legislature and used to discuss that with us and it seems very interesting. after reynolds versus sims was decided, he had the job of drawing to legislative and congressional district with date discuss that as well. that andember lying in listening to the clank of the mechanical adding machine which shows you how much technology has changed. he was doing different maps to make districts with equal so that was one thing. the other thing that got me interested in law was debating. one year, the national high
school debate topic had to do with a constitutional criminal procedure question and it just fascinated me. there was a little book put out that provided arguments on both sides of this question that was written by someone who at the a law clerkeled as on the california supreme court will stop that was the first time i ever saw the word law clerk. the name of this individual was laurence tribe. those were the two of the things that got me interested. >> clarence, unlike your colleagues, you once said you never wanted to be on the court, that you preferred a private and anonymous life. changed your mind and are you glad you changed it?
>> i don't know if i ever changed my mind. changed is when the president calls, you always say yes, mr. president and that gets you into these forest gump situations. i was just reflecting on my colleagues. first of all, it is an honor to be here with them. it is a bit overwhelming. it's a particular honor to be here with my wife, virginia, who is totally my best friend in the world. special thanore what at the time i thought my graduation was. i did not think about being a lawyer. i thought about seeing a priest. that was my dream, when you are an altar boy will stop the next
step is to determine whether you have a vocation and go on to the minor seminary and that was the major change in my life in 1964. >> and you went to seminary four-year will stop >> i went to seminary for four years, including my first year of college. then the late 1960's happened. of things happened, including loss of vocation and loss of faith and then you start thinking what do i do? when the idea, i reflected back on people like atticus bench -- he was the only lawyer i knew anything about. "nativebout max from son, so these were the things that played out in your mind in the 1960's. those of us who were there in
the 1960's cannot say we were thinking straight about a whole a lot of. even if we were not using illegal substances. and whatdifferent time i wound up with was working in the community -- that was a common theme for all of us, so i wound up at new haven legal assistance but the effort was to come back to savannah. yale was actually quite good because naively, i think you said, soanya that you are thinking 10 was unsophisticated, my thinking at 20 was unsophisticated. yale took me up in my quiteation, i said i was taken by the law and was excited to learn about it. that has continued.
actuallyho read that believed me and it must have sounded particularly naive but it is true and is still true today. i am 66, i'm not 20 anymore. i feel as strongly about it after all the experiences and more idealistic than i did back then. let me continue with this line of questioning. the same question to each of you youhat personality trait do think has been the greatest impediment to your success or if you prefer, you can tell us about a trait you found helpful. clarence.t with you, i am pretty much an introvert. that turned out to be one of the
traits that was in or mislead helpful. 's and susanaw clerk kane for pointing out in her book the traits that you have. that has been very healthy to me because i have been able to sort things out that were very, very difficult. the other thing for me over the years, whether i was teaching my , it waslgebra or typing persistence. with doingomfortable things over and over until i learn them. here, i found law school to be enormously elusive and going over reading the tax revenues and regulations over and over until it made sense, i think italy made sense when i threw the volumes out.
persistence and respect for others'opinions has been very helpful to me. as far as something that gets in the way, i can't think of that many things. work with others in a way that is cost free for them to disagree with me. is no penalty, that i can respectfully and clearly disagree, but not in a way where you think i'm going to make this guy angry or we are going to have some unpleasantness. it works fine for me on the court. i'm sure my colleagues can think of those things as the burn this or bullheaded this, but to me, that would be an incorrect assessment.
[laughter] ask some of your colleagues boat i will not do that right now. >> i think to be successful generally, he use the word persistent and i use the word troubled. you just don't want to give up, so you don't. i think you have to respect people and like them. but in direct answer to your question, i have a trait that has an and or mislead help full and enormously harmful at the same time. i have an incredible power of concentration. when i'm involved with something, whether it is reading in my office, people would stand outside my door to talk because i would never hear them. once i was working, i shut everything out.
very helpful for absorbing information when you are not distract, harmful is that happens when i am on the bench and i am involved in an argument and i become oblivious to the world around me and i am just trained in on the person i am engaged with, and i am seeking an answer. beinge, it seems i'm combative when i am really just searching for an answer. and i thinkped me it sometimes still does and i try and try harder as each year passes to correct some of that, -- i have to soothe that we can all see
the good in ourselves and admit some of the bad old stop >> sam merck >> impediments, more than i can inc. of. one has been mentioned already. it probably would have been better if i said a bit more. i said two things to the judge i clerked with during the year ice spent with them. hello judge on the first day ended i judge on the day i left. [laughter] i don't think that's exactly accurate. wells that have served me -- >> you were very close friends with him. >> he is a great mentor and in his 90's, he has been doing active work for the third circuit and he is still mentally very sharp and he lives near
here, so that is an added that if it of my trip this weekend, traits that have served me well? i think one of if not my single there." movie is "being being in the right place at the right time, that is the best. >> i tell my students that about clerkships. just being there at the right time. let me get on a bit of a lighter note. beyond sharing a passion for the law, each of you is also a passionate sports fan. -- and soniya, you butou are baseball fans,
clarence, have you ever gone to a baseball game? are, with your wife jenny, a devoted fan of the nebraska huskers. from nebraska. is that why you are a huskers fan? >> yes. [laughter] lot.lly like my wife a [laughter] [applause] i really liked her mother and her mother really liked me, so my advice to people who get married is lookout for the mother-in-law. they were big nebraska fans and i like the fact that the players graduate. i think it's wrong for these kids who go to school and use of their eligibility of health and
they probably don't graduate are stop at this moment, we dispatching with rutgers, so hopefully that is over by now. what do you do, with your leisure time if you have any? i'm going to give the answer and you are going to tell me whom i'm referring to in the style of the old "what's my .ine" tv show a coffeeu inspired shop to label its brand old justice. d want to ask the audience to participate? >> obviously, it's made. -- it's me. [laughter]
comes from my day on the third circuit. there was an old coffee shop that long, long predates starbucks -- this goes back to the 19th century. year, i had light coffee but they did not want to make that, but this coffee shop had a promotion. year and sign up for a fill up a big thermos so you have coffee for the year. as a promotion, they say if during the course of the year, you sampled every lens of coffee that they made, you could create your own blend at the end of the year and name it. this involved a lot of sacrifice because there were lens like blueberry coffee and horrible things. they suffered through all of that and then created this blend
, which is designed for about 3:00 in the afternoon if you are working and starting to fall asleep, if you have this, it will jolt you awake. that is the story behind it. thecoffee expert among three or four who did that has andthat as a law professor of course, where would he go? to seattle. >> it sounds like you are serious about your coffee. >> yes full top >> what kind do you drink? >> strong. >> are you serious about coffee? >> very much so, but i had to give it up. get pounds of coffee from puerto rico because they know i was an avid coffee drinker, so everybody sends a coffee. of it,an office full
home for that, friends have it, just get on my list. >> folgers and dunkin' donuts is fine. i'm eclectic. connoisseur. that's pretty obvious, right? >> one of you enjoys traveling cross country with your spouse .n a 40 foot rv who is that? >> that is technically incorrect. it is a motorcoach. >> is it bigger than an rv? >> it could be, but it is a better vehicle that rv. are a connoisseur
about something. >> and rv is built on a light truck chassis. a motorcoach is a tour bus. >> he is a connoisseur about some things. >> it is old, but it is really nice. i do travel on it and this is a wonderful country. we have been doing it for 15 years and we have been through connecticut, we have seen western connecticut, parts ofetts, other new england, upstate new york, the adirondacks, the west, the it is an amazingly beautiful country, so we have had an opportunity to drive around. >> to people ever come up to you and say you look like clarence thomas. gore -- youh v probably don't recall that case. one thing about these old motor
coaches is that you spend a lot of time repairing them. it, this always goes on -- you are always taking it to be repaired. it was scheduled the week we had bush v gore to be in florida. of course, i had to drive it there. i rescheduled and the week after, things were a little dicey driving down in florida and i stopped in brunswick georgia at the flying j truck stop. not many people know these places exist, but it is ready interesting. i'm refueling, which is an interesting experience, with the 18 wheelers and one of the truckers walks by and says to me that anybody ever tell you you look like clarence thomas? and i said yes.
happens alli bet it the time, doesn't it? then he went on about his business. one of you is a passionate salsa dancer and i guess we know who that is full -- we know who that is. >> it's me again. >> does any other justice dance salsa? >> i doubt it. part, i doubt very much. what i did as a child because we had parties in my home for most of my early childhood. i know most of my cousins could dance, but i couldn't. -- says every times less every time lessons started, you would run off and do something else. later found out i am
pitch death. i can't keep a beat to save my life. i live like a potted plant. there's an expression in spanish. moste like a potted plant of my adulthood and as i was -- ing 50, i had got on had gone on to the court of appeals and was invited to spanish event source also was being played. there as all of these guys were asking me to get up and dance and i was single. i finally decided this is something i want to change. so i took lessons and i found i totally cannot keep a beat to save my life will stop it doesn't matter what i do.
facility some of my colleagues would find very strange. i can follow. [laughter] this will fall a little flat in this audience except among the hispanics here. if my partner can keep the beat and i can see it, i can follow it. bestong hispanic men, the dancers in terms of keeping a beat are dominicans. becauset are cubans they have egg steps. >> is profiling. >> but it proves itself write a lot stop cubans have these very tight little steps.
puerto ricans, i can dance with. only partially jesting. before i say yes to anyone who asks me to dance, have two watch them first to make sure i can follow. so if you can't lead, you follow. >> you are going to be in trouble with the cubans. always says he's the only puerto rican who doesn't know how to dance. >> is a revelation to know >>nya likes to follow for now you know. getting to know you better -- am going to ask weston that sounds in all but works well when brian
lamb asks it on c-span. tell me about a book you have read recently and while is good. >> i have two books that are theirational and i keep month the table by my bed and tried to read them a little bit every night. my grandfather's son and my beloved world. [laughter] >> quick thinking. >> he is keeping it with his two constitutions in his pocket.
>> it is a hard question to answer. i try to read things other than the law over the summer, but when the summer comes to an end, i vow that you can just read briefs because so much of our lives is reading an incredible amount of legal material. -- i also love list, so i found a list of things you can read in a day. i've started it all and that is my vow for the coming term. some things i had read many years ago like a story from dubliners and i said you did not really understand this when you are 17 years old. some very moving things like that. >> i do a combination of legal
books and on legal books. summer, i read a book on my colleague and i am not going to rank it. he did not write it, so it is about him. booko read justin stevens on the amendments he would propose if he had the power. because of fun things, you want to escape from it. i read because my college classicstold me which to read and she still sends me books. it was the immortal life of henrietta west, and i loved that book. science did it teach me in an understandable way, but it had a very moving and impactful
description of how science not only changes the world, but the individuals affected by it. done, it was beautifully and incredibly interesting. it's a little bit of law because it talks about these cases but it is really about him and her as pete and i am enjoying it. things friends recommend the. i just have ags personal interest in, so it varies. i think reading is a gift. it is a gift i prayed for when i was a kid, i read quite a bit.
to teacho do things, courses and things i'm interested in. i just recently agreed to teach a literature class for the last two years on law and literature. this year, we were doing native son. native son is to me -- it was certainly critical in my own development and there is so much in there. i reread that many times. i most recently reread it a few weeks ago. did to kill a marking bird which i have done countless times. each time you read it, you see something different. >> where was it you were teaching? >> george washington university. i'm teaching another course that is the story behind constitutional law precedent.
that's a full semester. i taught another one on swift the tyson, which is another set of readings. so i really need a full-time job. is it forces me to -- things that are important to me and that are helpful in thinking about things -- reading richard wright at this point in my life is quite different -- >> when you first read it? >> i was 16 -- i was the only black kid in the seminary. you react quite differently. i read it again during my college years. have read it many times, but at each stage, you see things differently.
>> judge alito gave my answer -- i read them and reread them. on, you've got to get moving your memoir. to law school on and your priests of prima court careers. when i first asked about your time at yale law school, let us some some former all -- formal episodes, good or bad. tell us something in your book or something else entirely. and sam, you can tell us if it's true if you sat in front of the never took notes. >> it sounds good, so i'm not going to deny it.
interesting things that happened -- i had some wonderful classes and great professors. i was walked over to the law school this morning by a first-year student -- maybe they thought i couldn't find my way here, but i had a chance to talk to him on my way over and i asked what courses he was taking andhe said i'm taking tort guido cal bracey is teaching. so many things have changed here. but it's good to have some things that do stay the same. he was a wonderful teacher and i'm glad to hear he's doing well after some recent surgery. i had some other very good courses. of route court and i are member participating here and in particular, i
marveled that i made it to the final rounds. an incident i mentioned to the students i spoke to, one of the judges is hammering the with one particular question. could -- ias best i don't know how many times this i wouldand then i said like to move on to my other argument and he said you have an answer my question to my satisfaction yet and my response was i have answered it to my satisfaction. [laughter] this is an incredibly open-minded person who let me move on to the next round after that. >> i never knew that about you.
ask what about you, clarence mark >> i think of law school as a blur. there were some good people who were very good to me. i consumed a lot of his time. professors -- they were all very good to me and spent time with me. joe bishop spent time with me when i took a couple of his courses. i also love -- i had a group of then, you were required to eat at least one meal at the law school, so there was a group of us who met in the mornings.
mostly kids who lived in the dorm. we needed breakfast and i thought that was one of the delightful times. i also had some study groups that were just delightful. the rule was if you did not contribute, you were booted out i found those interesting, but i must admit i did not get as much out of the law school as i should have and that's simply because of my which i encouraged students this morning not to replicate. it was a very difficult time and there was a lot of negativity on my part. >> soanya?
>> clarence? how toy did not know take full advantage of law school. >> good point. >> given our background and the fact we did not have anybody in law or related to law, i did the things that sounded like you had to do through the law journal. like too much writing, so i did rarest or's union. but until jose talked to me about clerking in my third year of law school, i had not heard about it. i hadn't thought about it. i do think there are kids who come today to yale who don't come with enough knowledge of the system to know how to take full advantage. now there is talk
with students in our position it dissolves to. >> i found out about clerkships about two years after i was gone. [laughter] whatm not going to repeat is in my book. i hope those of you who have read it will. -- i have said this to the students -- in high the top of mynear class and valedictorian. heard,ege, you may have i graduated with honors. got to yale and learned a deep sense of humility. classmates, to my listening to them in class
taught me how much smarter so how other people were and smart has different races. >> anything a resonating with you? >> i tend to agree. left,, by the time i there's a sense of confidence oft i had an assessment and then ited to be was a question of what i make the commitment to get there? soanya is absolutely right. there a lot we know and are some things i am involved in now where we try to bridge the fromor talented kids difficult or challenging backgrounds. yale,do think when i left
i had a sense of how right or how much others knew and how much i needed to learn to be where they were. and that would take years. i go back to the point about going to be-- was i persistent enough and have the will to continue preparing to get there? me ask about getting there. this is an other commonality. school,u left yale law you started your career as government attorney. and that is in washington dc. you served as an assistant attorney general in missouri doing tax work under john danforth. sam, your first job after the serve as ans was to
assistant u.s. attorney in new jersey. sonia, you served under our great graduate bob morgenthaler. postnt to know how these -law school experiences shaped you? i don't want to say shaped you as a justice, because then you might not want to answer it. which of your jobs, and there are a lot of them, the most important preparation for the supreme court? missouriin the attorney general's office and then two years in-house at theanto -- he worked on hill as an aide to senator danforth, served at the
department of education, and served as chair as the eeoc before your year and a half on the d.c. circuit. which of these was the most important preparation? >> first of all, i was in missouri and probably wound up with these jobs. i don't want anyone to think i had a conscious plan. i would have to say each job was even theb and difficulties were opportunities to learn and to grow and that is the way i looked at them. not all of them were the most gratifying or fulfilling jobs, but i have not had a bad job. >> it was jack and forth, and he
is a good man. us morehe could promise work for less money than anybody in the country. and he delivered on that. it was a wonderful learning opportunity. the best job i had for me personally among the jobs i have had to prepare me for what i do, i would have to say eeoc. >> tell us about that. >> there were a lot of challenges. i'm not going to go back and relive that, but there were challenges and criticisms and i was constantly in trouble. you learn how to remain calm and make hard decisions under difficult circumstances.
learn to double check and recheck and make sure you are right. also, you learn how not to become unpleasant because there is unpleasantness around you to accept certain things. you can't always retaliate. i would have to say eeoc and i learned people who work closely with you appreciate you being loyal and good to them as jack danforth was to me from 1974 on. say eeoc taught me that discipline and calm this in difficult circumstances. sam, you spent four years as an assistant attorney where i gather a lot of your cases were appeals for the third circuit
and nu argued 12 cases before the supreme court. after that, you spent two years as deputy at oh lc and then you were appointed the president to be the u.s. attorney for the district of new jersey. these -- you went from being a legal eagle most of your life to now running an office. what was that like? >> it was the biggest change in my career. a lot different from what i had gone before and radically different from what came after. being a circuit judge, whereularly on my court they are spread out, it's one of the most isolated legal jobs that exist. other courts may operate to
firmly, and we got along very well, but i could go literally for weeks without ever seeing another human being at work except for the people in my own office. wasu.s. attorney job completely different. was read and i did write and exchange e-mails with my colleagues and go to philadelphia for oral arguments. ae u.s. attorney's office was big office by the standards of the day and there was always something happening. every day when i came in, i might have things i planned to do but there would be a dozen things i had not land. good wings, not so good things -- the assistant would come in and we would have to deal with that problem.
the heads of different investigative agencies came in. -- it fascinating to stop was fascinating. it did not involve a lot of reading or deep analysis, but it's a tactical job trying to make sure everyone in the office was moving in the right direction and handling their cases and investigations properly. >> after serving under bob morgenthaler, you were in private practice for nine years. fiveid not serve for years, making you the only justice with that experience. how have these different roles and positions informed your respect of on the law? i had a thought even from law school that you knew the profession was moving toward
specialization and at some point, i would have to pick an area. timein law school, i spent learning about different yields that i thought made a more well-rounded lawyer. even know i was specializing in international law, hence my note, i took corporations, i evidence,act, i took i took the states and trust. all of the subjects that i thought made a well-rounded attorney. office,ot to the das there was some frustration there . differenturt is very from state prosecution. scarce.s are
the people involved are well-meaning but also sometimes not well trained. witnesses are often scared and we don't have the federal resources of witness protection in the same way. you have two could people to bring cases. and a half years, i decided i had rounded out the criminal right of my lawyering and wanted to learn something about the civil side. so i went to a commercial law firm, but i did everything as a litigator. sub specialty and intellectual property. but i did it states there, i handled real estate matters, i youled banking matters -- name it, i did a little bit of everything and some big things
as well. that repaired me for the district court. watching judges who have become judges recently, a lot of them come from specialties and i think they have the basics of law and i had developed a more wide basis of legal knowledge starting with my district court job. even with that, there was a ton to learn. i have learned a lot. >> the district court -- let me tell you a story. last year, i was having lunch with the chief and justice kagan it was just the three of us. we started talking about how workedr senior justices
in the various federal circuits. it, it thinking about said when or if i retire, i'm going to go back to the district court. when asked why, i said why would i want to go on doing what i'm doing for however many years it has been? i want to go back to my first love and district court is a different and exciting place. for me, it was the formative experience preparing me for the court. likell look at cases a lot district court's do. toook at the facts and try apply the facts to law and my colleagues look at the law and that is all they look at.
will never disavow because it has value. time was onreatest the district court in terms of preparing me for the supreme court will stop >> how about you? the you those things think you took the most from sitting as a justice? >> arguing is much more closely related to what i am doing, so that had a greater effect, but i treasure the experience of being u.s. attorney. >> we sort of moved on to your service on the supreme court and was an initial question -- what surprised you when you got to the court mark did anything surprise you mark monday nor
important? matters, we are the way we operated internally than i was used to on the court of appeals. cases comeof our from the federal courts of appeals. we are more formal in the way we operate. anybody present , so the time expired and if any judge had more questions come more time would be given or if the lawyers hadn't covered everything, more time would be given. you can't really do that when you have nine on the bench and you have the kind of schedule we have. our internal operations are very
old-fashioned. we don't communicate with each other at all. withf my communications colleagues were by e-mail. tunes by our the seats on the bench. >> you said being on the regional courts of appeals, at state,ne that's got many now you are all in the same building -- i thought you were our communications are by telephone or face to face the communication about cases almost always are written except when we are in conference and we are talking there. some, and there's nothing wrong with it,
communications that are oral but if you have comments about the standardnion, procedure is to write a letter and circulate it to everybody on the court. we are together a lot more. for me, it's a much less isolated job. we are in the same city, in the same building and we are together for many more days. days we have arguments, we have lunch together very frequently, so we see each other a lot more than i did on my old court. >> clarence? >> i can't say i was surprised. i had no idea what i had gotten myself into. formal.ery i like her malady. i don't like a lot of the informal stuff. white, heoss, byron
would send around a memo -- dear clarence, i don't agree with the thing you said, cheers, byron. [laughter] "cheers,ter was brian." it's a little disconcerting because we are in the same building and we don't see each other that much except when we are sitting or have conference. i usually come in, go to my chambers and work and go back to the basement, get in my car and go home. firste-mail but when i got to the court, there was not internal e-mail, so i don't think we have gotten there yet. i was in charge in those days of the automation, so we have all of that now. we can do a lot of things on the
computer on a document together. i do it with my law clerks that people prefer hardcopies and things like that. i work almost exclusively paperless. i think at some point, we will do it in the court. surprises me is how warm everybody was when i got there. i was pleasantly surprised by that, by how engaged everyone was. i walked from an argument with john stevens is a delightful and brilliant man and you could start talking about cases you have earlier in the week or you are working on an opinion and he is fully engaged, or justice o'connor, same thing. ,t was a wonderful environment and environment where people
were not raising their voices but thinking they were of the view that the work was more important than they were and our job was to turn out the best product we could. that's the court i came to and that's the way i think the court is now. very pleasantly surprised at how much work it took. i came on the court and i was 40 years younger than justice locklin at the time. it in his 80's, so i said it can be all that hard. he was cruising along and i had fallen along the way. the boss used to tell me, clarence you have to get a system and learn how to do this job systematically. i have to say the number one
warm for me was just how and respectful and dignified the people were with whom i worked, whether they agreed or didn't. that was my biggest surprise. >> i was surprised by all of this as well. me, the tradition had one positive thing which it taught me that the court as an much moren was important than i was as an individual justice. that is a very important lesson for justices to learn and to live by. sometimes the tradition is little silly. lunch, -- why have i forgotten -- our previous is --
our previous justices chair. that is not by seniority, but that chair has been sat on by all the judges. moves, you feel a lot of eyebrows raise. why are you sitting there? that stoplen prey to what are you doing here? overwhelming at times, the tradition. i think there are two reasons the justices don't use technology so much. one is tradition and the other is some of them don't know how. >> then there is that. >> the almost 90-year-old justice when i came to the court, justice even -- justice stevens, did use e-mail.
you could send him something and he would respond, but it was very short, so i knew he wasn't a great typist, but colleagues who you might be otherwise surprised -- i think the most computers that he justice issue, .larence >> in his defense, justice stevens was my ally in automating the agency. he was a very productive man. fun of him to make when he went to florida but we dreaded when he went to florida because he would start churning all of this stuff out and he was always on his computer. 80% as productive -- he was a wonderful ally and in fact, when there was some consternation early on about
automation, he was one of the people i could count on to always help me convince my colleagues to move in that direction. >> i will say something. a different view of the isolation you talk about. i have chose to be on the second floor. i am the only justice up there. i recognize it is a problem because i'm separated from my colleagues. those steps down, sometimes they seem a bigger barrier than they should. decide, as iust have done before in other courts and my colleagues were nearby, to just walk by and plop myself down to say hello. we have colleagues who do that. >> steve breyer? >> and a couple of others. some colleagues
who like doing it. i think it is personality. i really do think it's what we're most comfortable with as individuals. with respect to the question that you asked, i've often said, i fell prey to what i think the public does in reading art opinions. you read our opinions. you agree with one side or the other, anything to yourself, this was perfectly clear. this was not that hard to figure out. is then what you do not see how difficult almost every case before us is. it does not come to us unless there is a circuit split. if there's split it is because, this point, but the reality is i think most of our court of appeals judges are reasonable people.
and they are giving their best effort at giving an answer. struggling a lot more than i anticipated. opinion, you write the all of you and your colleagues, you read the majority opinions. you read the dissenting opinion, and each one seems quite confident they got it right. but you are saying -- >> you picked great lawyers. advocate.of us was an everyone of us can pitch the b est argument on either side that you could raise. our once we've come to conclusion, the purpose of opinion is to persuade. and you are going to do an opinion that you hope persuades. even though you may be experiencing some initial doubt about the answer.
i think that, for me, that part of it is very much a surprise. >> very interesting. sam, have anything to add to this? what makes a case hard? said about the difficulty of the cases is correct. most of them are cases where there is a conflict by definition those are cases with respect to which there are two reasonable positions that you can take. that the mind the fact last opinion of mine from the , which wasit in opinion for the on bank court, was reversed by the supreme court 9-0. [laughter] i'm still absolutely sure i was correct. the issue was whether a woman was in eligible for social security disability insurance
benefits because she could do the last job that she previously had. job was as anast elevator operator. so, i said rather simpleminded ly that the ability to do your last job should not count if that job does not exist anywhere in the real world. but the supreme court in its great with some said it does not matter whether the job exists. i do keep that in mind. [laughter] >> he's still a good lawyer. >> still bothers you, huh? >> no, clarence. i have gotten over it. >> remember it very well. speaking of your colleagues, there is something ironic. yale law school is supreme when it comes to populate law school faculties. ofother fact is that four f
your colleagues were full-time law professors. ginsburg, kagan, and scalia. this is the most academic court of all time. yet, none of the former professors are yalies. none of you. i am getting to a question here.a are there too many former oppressors? are there too many former appeals court judges? not enough for something else. and anyone can take this on. as academics is concerned, we are at a dangerous tipping point. they are almost in the majority. who knows what they will do to us -- >> when they have control. of appealscourt judges perfect preparation. [laughter] no question about it.
>> it's helpful. i don't know whether that kind of being a court -- former court of appeal judge, being an academic having held an elected position, i do not know whether that kind of diversity of experiences is critically important. diversity of experience is very valuable. many different types of diversity. mentioned,, as sonia very few people today have the kind of generalist background that she acquired. a lot of people spent a lot of their career specializing in some areas. and we all have areas where we have to write opinions that are going to be binding on the country in areas where we have no background. bitexample, i did not one of patent work.
my first involvement in patent law is in voting on patent cases. it is unavoidable. that will be true for all of us. it is valuable for us to have that kind of diversity as far as fields of specialization and knowledge. >> anybody else care to comment on the observation the courts make up? justice thomas, you have served on different courts. it has changed. >> i served about two weeks on the court of appeals. >> different supreme court. new people coming in. , ii have great respect for think the work that our judges do. i think they allow us -- the earlier question about confidence in the opinions. i do not think we can write, woe is me.
i'm having a hard time with this. i am crossing the rubicon and all that sort of stuff. you have to write the opinion. and you write it as best and is clearly as you can. but sometimes i think we write it in a way that belies the insecurities we might have or the uncertainties in the argument. i think we have to be open in the next cases to re-examine that. that is something i try to do in chambers -- go back and make sure, rethink old opinions. but as far as the makeup of the court, i do not feel that i'm in a position to say who is better qualified. our colleagues who are academics, from the academic world. who would be replace? i like them all. i think they are all fabulous. you do not have to agree with them. you do not have to agree with justice ginsburg to know
she does fabulous work. when you are in a disagreement with her, she is going to force you to do better work. the court thelike way it is. i do think we should be concerned that all of us are from two law schools. andsure that -- harvard yale likes that. we should be concerned about that to some extent because this is a big country. i also think we might want to think about the fact that we hav e such a strong northeastern orientation when the country, there is a lot of country between here and the west coast. i mean, those are my peaves. wouldn't, i could not say that somebody on the court who is been a colleague of mine should not have them there or should not be there. they are wonderful people. have surprising,, a
dissenting view. individualny one does not represent.anything . you do not represent the justice who is an elected official. you do not represent a justice who has come from a single practice. and it is not as if you're going to be an advocate for an interest group. so justices do not play at the kids in that sense of the word. you'reo think that, as evaluating the human condition, as you are talking about how you expect the reasonable person to respond, how you talk about what police officer would would not do and all of these questions that we look at constantly, it
is helpful to have people with life experiences that are very. it enriches the conversation. i'm worried we are not geographically diverse. not think thedid president was going to pick me because of that. but i and surely happy that he ignored me. and picked me anyway. it is hard to say who you would give up, because nobody wants to say it should be them. but i do think geographic. i think religious. god, but therein are issues that come up in terms of reactions where having a different perspective may be useful. but i also think that we are missing things on the court. we are missing any justice who has had criminal defense experience. everybody has either been a u.s.
attorney, a government attorney. we do not have a civil rights lawyer except ruth. but we do not have one in bald in general -- involved in general civil rights. i think that is a type of practice that is different. tony kennedy did a little bit of solo practice. but his was a unique practice in california. and it was a product of his dad. he joined his father. we've got a a lot of firm lawyers. except for me, there is no midsize or small, single practitioner. i think you need diversity, not just life background, but of legal experience background. we are being asked to decide questions involving not just
ordinary people but the profession. one, if i had the power, which i do not, obviously, i would encourage the people who appoint justices or judges generally to look at that diversity. when senators ask me whta at i thought how they should pick nominees to district and circuit courts, i would say look at your bench and see what life experience or professional experience it is missing. and look for people who can bring and enrich the court with that. >> all of you have mentioned colleagueship and friendship's on the court. we don't witness your interactions, both formal and informal. in some measure of her colleagueship -- i'm going to
try something. i'm going to ask each of you to tell us something about the other two. and maybe something we might not know or something we do knkow. i have chosen these pairings at random. so, sonia, tell us something about clarence. name of every knows the-clarence name of every employee in the court house from the lowest position to the highest. [applause] with virtually all of them he knows their families. theirhappinesses and tragedies. it is, when robert he talked aboutm,
his humanity and caring. that fact alone made me understand that as much as we may disagree on a lot of legal issues, we do not disagree on the fundamental value of people. someone whorespect you disagree with legally if you start with that foundation in principle. >> thank you. >> sam, can you tell us something about sonia? clarence, you can figure out. you can start thinking ahead. let's see if you read my book. >> every night. [laughter] think i am not going to tell you something that you do not already know, but these are traits i admire. irasonia is very independent.
she is very, very thorough in her preparation. not only on the merits cases but on the hundreds of cert petitions that we discuss every term. she is very strong in her views, and she does not give up on the rest of us. even when she sees we are going majority is going off in the wrong direction, you might just drop your hands and say, well, what can i do? but she has hope that she can convince us. she makes good arguments. and sometimes she succeeds. >> great. >> i've been called incessantly optimistic. >> clarence? >> goodness.
she never gives up. [laughter] just re-list that. is, first of all, he is married to martha anne who is a delight and who is a wonderful person. sam is really smart. really funny. principal. and a man of his word. it's something -- when you can look someone in the eye and he tells you something, and you word, thathim at his is a treasure, i tell my law a reputationthat is hard to build and easy to lose. with us, sam has a wonderful reputation of integrity and honesty. plus, he's really a funny guy.
and for some reason he likes the philadelphia teams, which i do not understand. >> thankfully, the one time we had a bet, i won. >> you had a bet? >> my first year on the bench, the phillies and the yankees were playing against one another. we made a lunch bet. toad to treat him philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches and he had to treat me to new york hot dogs and beer. i got a really good lunch. thank you. >> you did. it was not easy to find brooklyn lager in washington. searched a lot of places. this was the bet on the 2009 world series. i think it will be a long time before have another bet. >> i agree. >> this year is going to be kansas city. mentionedomas you
that you tell your law clerks that reputation is hard-fought and can easily be lost. the final question -- asking each of you -- what is the best or most important advice you gave to the students with whom you met this morning? each met separately with 30 students chosen by lottery. sam? a really smart group of students who had the good sense not to ask me for advice. you advice iell actually gave them. but i will tell you advice that i would have given them if they had asked me. [laughter] >> people around here just give advice without being asked. >> maybe it will filter out to them. first, i do not know how relevant this is to their own experiences, because it off a lot of time has passed since i was here.
the first is to find your own path. a lotst when i was here, of smart students who had been on an achievement track. so, the question was not, what do i want to do next but what is the thing to do next as i compete to get into the best college and the best law school and then get the best clerkship, and work for the best firm? point, i think you need to get off that track and ask what you personally want to do. and if you you have not done it before, when you graduate from law school, i think that is the time to do it. confusesecond is not to your legal career with your life. do not make your legal career your entire life. don't define your worth in terms exclusively of what you do in your career.
i know people for my law school class who did that. and it led to very unfortunate consequences. so that is advice that would have given, but did not have the chance. >> thank you. sonia? >> i do not know what the students would say, but i'll change up a little bit of what i said. which was looking into law schools to attend i'd narrowed it to harvard or yale. and i talked -- this is the age before the internet, ok? so, i had to talk to people about those institutions. every harvard graduate that i spoke to, harvard law school graduate, would say the toughest years of my life but i loved it. and every yale alumni that i
talked to would say the best years of my life. in responseference is what convinced me to come to yale. and i have subsequently through years thought about i said that same thing. and i think it is in part what sam has said. yes, there is tracking. but i think there is tracking because there is a model of success the people see and want to duplicate because that is the only model they know of. but the one thing i loved about yale is it lets you be passionate about whatever you wanted to be. >> amen. whateveruld work with professor, doing whatever kind of work you wanted to do, and people volunteered to do it.